A new era dawned in Ukraine when parliament appointed a pro-Western interim leader after impeaching a defiant president Viktor Yanukovych, whose whereabouts remain a mystery following a week of carnage after months of mostly peaceful protests.
“It’s not in the interests of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see the country split,” Rice told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.”
Asked about whether Ukraine’s old master Russia could send in forces to restore the kind of government it would like to see in Kiev, Rice warned: “That would be a grave mistake.”
“There is not an inherent contradiction… between a Ukraine that has long-standing historic and cultural ties to Russia and a modern Ukraine that wants to integrate more closely with Europe,” she said. “It need not be mutually exclusive.”
Rice said US President Barack Obama, in his recent phone call on Ukraine with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, addressed the issue of Ukrainian unity.
“The president’s message was, look, we have a shared interest in a Ukraine that remains unified, whole, independent and is able to exercise the will of its people freely,” she said.
“At that point, Putin was in agreement.”
Rice reiterated Washington’s stance that it wanted to see a de-escalation of violence, constitutional change and democratic elections “in very short order.”
“This is not about the US and Russia,” she said in the exclusive interview.
“This is about whether the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be.”